Rights groups demand new laws to tackle hate crimes

By Ed Carty

Rights groups have renewed calls for hate crime legislation after only 47 incidents were recorded in the first half of the year.

Officially, the number of racist, homophobic and anti-semitic cases up to the end of June is slightly below the previous two years which saw 111 reports for the whole of 2013 and 118 in 2012.

Campaigners claim Ireland is the only western democracy not to specifically classify hate crime, leaving a massive gap between the records and the reality for minority groups.


Based on Garda data, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said there were 40 racially motivated incidents in the first half of the year, six homophobic and one anti-semitic.

Most cases involved minor assaults or public order offences.

Last year, there were more than 100 crimes classed by gardai as hate motivated - 92 racist incidents, 17 homophobic and two anti-semitic.

Jennifer Schweppe, University of Limerick law lecturer, said hate crime legislation should cover the nine areas already set down in the state's equality laws, including disability.

"If we had hate crime legislation, then there would be a reason to record the hate motivation," she said.

"Ireland is outstanding as being the only western democracy without hate crime legislation. We are very far behind. Even if you take our nearest neighbours - we are 16 years behind Britain and in Northern Ireland it was introduced in 2004, so there's a huge gap."

The CSO data shows racially motivated crime peaked in 2007 when 215 incidents were put on the Garda Pulse system, while the peak for anti-semitism was 2010 when 13 instances were recorded.

Homophobia peaked in 2009 with 36 offences, according to the records, with subsequent years showing 14 incidents in 2010, 21 in 2011 and 18 in 2013.

The Irish Integration Centre reported earlier this year, based on studies of hate crime statistics, that people are 22 times more likely to report racist incidents in England and Wales than in Ireland.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) is planning to further develop this by launching an online homophobic crime recording system in December.

The group's policy development officer Craig Dwyer said: "We have statistics to go on but anecdotally and from research we would echo concerns that there is a massive under-reporting. We know a lot more goes on than is suggested by the Pulse statistics."